If you've spent even a few minutes poking around on LinkedIn, you've likely come across the phrase “Digital Transformation”. I personally find “Digital Transformation” an over used term that makes you sound smart, but can be quite ambiguous.
It’s everywhere, and is used in broad ways to describe everything from moving your on-premise corporate email to Office365 in the Cloud, to migrating your entire business systems and modernizing them through the application of Business Intelligence, Machine Learning or AI.
Let's pick apart the phrase. Digital clearly refers to changing your manual or analogue process is into something computerized or digital. Transformation is just that; the evolution or transforming from an older way of doing things to something newer and different.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not knocking the phrase. Digital Transformation is real and is having a huge impact on businesses. Businesses have always gone through transformations. Some may argue the speed of transformation is increasing (see my article about Acceleration of Change) but businesses have always had to deal with transforming and adapting - not only to the customer's needs, but also adopting and applying more efficient and modern ways of delivering products and services.
Digital Transformation can take many forms, and you may think it does not apply to you. If you have made the decision to store your data somewhere in the Cloud providing seamless access to you and your staff from any location, then you have started to digitally transform. If you have decided to use a Cloud application rather than installing software on your PC or server, then you are digitally transforming.
But where the really big benefits of Digitally Transforming are realized is when you look towards the future and plan not just for small operational changes, but understand how you will build and evolve your products and services to incorporate where the digital world is going.
Are you using machine learning to analyze the buying patterns and profiles of your customers? Are you incorporating some sort of IoT device into your product which sends data back to your customer informing them of its status and performance? Are you looking at automating business processes that you thought would never be possible by taking advantage of the Cloud and ease of data integration?
These all may seem like abstract ideas, but if you're not innovating, looking forward and taking advantage of the momentum of technology, then don't be surprised when your competitors do and surpass you in some way.
Change is inevitable, painful, difficult and necessary. Phrases like “Digital Transformation” can easily be dismissed or pushed aside because of their ambiguity. If you do that, I believe you are missing a substantial opportunity…. an opportunity for you to look at leveraging technology to make your business more efficient, more stable, more secure and more valuable.